Archive for March, 2008

Fought and won

Today, I sewed while Nola slept. I swear she thinks I can’t see her.

Nola's paws

My friend purchased this reversible apron and requested a matching bib.


Having never made a bib before, I searched Etsy for inspiration, wandered around the infant section at Target for tangible samples, and came up with a design that was a little of this and a little of that.

It started as a drawing…

bib drawing

then became a paper template…

paper template

and finally became a bib.


I’m very happy with how it turned out, but if I could do it again, I would have cut the binding on the bias for flexibility. That straight strip of binding did NOT want to go around those curves!


But I fought and won.


I’m curious about other people’s design process. I like to sketch things out first to get a very clear idea of what needs to go into the final product — measurements, colors, placement — before I start cutting into my fabric. There’s nothing I hate more than wasting fabric. I only cut paper templates when the pattern is an odd shape (which usually means neither square nor rectangle) or when I want to physically see and understand the life-size proportions.

So how about you? If you’re not working from an existing pattern, what steps do you take to get a new design from your imagination to the final piece? Do you draw things out? Make it up as you go? Do you prefer to have things planned, or do you thrive off of happy mistakes?


March 29, 2008 at 10:18 pm 8 comments

Jack and Jill went up the hill



I just realized it’s been a whole week since I posted!

As much as I like shopping at JoAnn Fabrics, I’ve been trying to find some small, locally owned fabric shops. I prefer giving my money to a non-chain, and smaller stores tend to have more interesting — and sometimes better quality — fabric choices.

I found a store online called Calico Corners and hunted it down last week only to find out that it’s a national upholstery fabric store, and not a “mom and pop” quilting fabric store like the name suggests. Calico Corners? How misleading! I have a few more fabric stores on my list to try, but most of them close at 6 p.m., which means rushing from work and fighting traffic. I’ll get there; it’s just not going to be as easy as swinging by JoAnn’s on my lunch break.

I ended up shopping for the first time at Hancock Fabrics, another chain. I’m not sure if all of the locations are the same, but the one in Tampa wasn’t very impressive. Many of the fabrics are old-fashioned (and not in a cool vintage way) and just not my style. However, I did walk out with two fabrics that I hadn’t seen elsewhere, including an adorable nursery rhyme print.


I finished my cousin’s (a.k.a. “my best customer’s”) dolphin pillow, which she received this week and promptly named “Delphine.”

dolphin pillow

She ordered this to go with the octopus pillow that she purchased from me last month. I hope they look great together.


A friend of mine ordered this apron and asked me to make a matching bib. It’s a very cute idea. I’ve never made a bib before, but I’ve figured out the design. In my head. The next step is seeing if my idea works in real life, which I’ll do this week. Wish me luck!

March 26, 2008 at 6:33 pm 5 comments

Aqua and red

Alex and I have been looking for a set of bowls to go with the rest of our dinnerware for almost a year, and we finally found some last night.


For my 30th birthday last May, he gave me a set of vintage hand-painted Red Wing dinnerware (click here for the whole story). The set was in perfect condition and included everything except bowls.


We’d been using our old green bowls that absolutely do not match the rest of the set. That was until we found our new bowls last night.

We didn’t have the plates with us to compare the blues. Instead, we went with our gut, and it ended up being a frighteningly perfect match, right down to the hand-painted look.

plate and bowl

Our apartment is filled with light aquas and reds.

coffee and cereal

I’m almost always immediately attracted to those colors and I think they look great together.

red quilt

That red quilt has gotten a lot of use over the years, and it’s got the frayed edges and cat hair to prove it. I made it with several different types of fabric, including velvet and sateen, which gave the quilt texture but also caused some of the seams to fray and separate in the wash.

bowl and oven mitts

I’m not feeling well today and am having trouble keeping my eyes open. I think it may be time for a nap under that red quilt.


March 19, 2008 at 5:16 pm 10 comments

A is for antelope

I spent this afternoon making another tote bag.

tote bag

Although I learned to do a proper zig-zag applique stitch, I thought that finish would be too polished here. In my opinion, this called for a standard outline stitch, giving it a slightly “raw” look.

antelope tote

The bag is made of narrow-wale ivory corduroy and lined in one of my favorite fabrics that is diminishing way too quickly.

antelope tote

I used medium-weight interfacing on the body and straps, since the corduroy is so soft and thin. I may eventually make a similar tote for The Boutique (if you’d like one, please let me know), but this one is ALL MINE, baby!

antelope toe

I hope everyone is having a lovely weekend.

March 16, 2008 at 6:42 pm 4 comments

Petah Tote

Finally enough sunlight to take some decent photos.

Petah Tote

This bag was a bit of a departure for me, which I very much enjoyed.

Petah Tote

The Petah Tote is for sale here in The Boutique.

Petah Tote

I received some fantastic feedback on my last post. I was a little surprised to find out that I was far from being the only one who didn’t know how to do a proper zig-zag applique stitch.

I thought for sure I would get comments from people saying, “Well, DUH there’s an applique foot. Why WOULDN’T there be an applique foot!?” Well…I didn’t really expect people to post comments like that, because the blogging community is filled with sweet, supportive and generally friendly folks, but surely they would be rolling their eyes and thinking it, right? Nope.

Just one more reason to love being part of this world of bloggers.

March 12, 2008 at 9:43 pm 5 comments

What is this applique foot of which you speak?

I’ve mentioned about a kazillion times that, for the most part, I’m a self-taught sewer. (That’s sewer, as in “one who sews,” not “an underground conduit for carrying sewage.” Dear God, is there a better term for that?) And while it can be a lot of fun and quite satisfying to figure things out on my own, I’ve found that too often, when I finally do learn The Right Way, I realize I’d been doing it The Hard Way for a long, long time.

Through trial and error and time, I figured out how to applique. I use double-sided fusible web with every applique project I do, and I’ve tried several times to do a zig-zag stitch around the outside of various appliques, but it always ends up looking embarrassingly messy. So instead, I use a simple standard stitch.

applique stitch

Using that stitch has always worked for me, but I really wanted to have more than one applique option. And I knew there had to be a way to do the zig-zag stitch, because other people were managing to do it without making it look like a monkey had taken over their sewing machine.

I had a specific applique project in mind that I knew would only look good with a zig-zag stitch, so I did a little bit of research and, through a combination of several blogs, learned two things. One, I should set the stitch width at 3 and the stitch length at .5. And two, I should use — wait for it — an applique foot.

I’m sorry, what now? There’s an applique foot? Seriously?

The applique foot is clear plastic, so you can see where the heck you’re stitching, especially around curves, and it has a small arrow in the front center, so you can keep the edge of the applique fabric lined up with the arrow. Beautiful.

(Edit: Check your sewing machine manual to see if it comes with an applique foot. It might be called something different, like a blind foot or an open toe foot, but it should be clear plastic with a little arrow front and center.)

applique stitch

I did a trial run, realized how incredibly fun and easy is was to do a zig-zag applique stitch The Right Way, and spent the rest of the afternoon working on the above project. This and the strap from yesterday’s post are part of a tote bag that I’m making for The Boutique.

It’s already received Nola’s stamp of approval. Poor thing had a rough day of napping.


I had a dream last night that I came upon another blogger who was copying all of my photographs. She wasn’t actually using MY photographs, but she was setting up her own photographs identically to mine, and I was furious

I’d like to give a very special thank you to Jox over at The Knitted Blog for submitting my strap tutorial to Craftzine. Thank you, Jox! You’re the best!

March 10, 2008 at 11:50 pm 10 comments

How to sew a double-sided strap

I spent today designing and sewing a new style of bag that I’m really excited about. I finally figured out some stuff with applique stitching (who knew you needed a special foot?!), which I’ll get into in my next post.


In the meantime, I figured I’d take this opportunity to do a strap tutorial. As always, I must preface this with the good old “I’m completely self-taught, so just because I do it this way doesn’t mean it’s the right way” disclaimer.

1. Cut two strips of fabric (one for the top/outside and one for the bottom/liner) that are one inch wider and one inch longer than the measurements of your finished strap. I want my finished strap to be 2″ by 24″, so I cut two 3″ by 25″ strips of fabric.

2. Place the right sides together and sew along one of the long sides, leaving a 1/2″ seam allowance. Press the seam open.

press seams open

3. Lay the strap wrong side up on your ironing board. Fold the raw edges in 1/2″ and pin. (Hint: Since you’re just ironing and not sewing yet, you can use the ironing board as a “pin cushion” by pinning the fabric directly to the board.)

pin to ironing board

4. Press the folded raw edge.

iron raw edges

5. Repeat on the other side.

repeat on other side

6. Fold and press the two wrong sides of the fabric together.

fold and press

7. Pin together the open seam.


8. Sew the two pieces of fabric together by stitching each long side at 1/4″ from the edge, then again at 1/8″ from the edge, so you end up with two lines of stitching on each side.

two lines of stitching

Hint: If your two fabrics aren’t the same color but you don’t want a contrasting stitch, use a different color thread on the main spool than on the bobbin. In this case, I didn’t want to use purple thread on the green fabric, or green thread on the purple fabric, so I used a spool of green thread on the top and purple thread for the bobbin. The green from the main spool peeks through the purple side just a little bit. I think it’s a nice effect.

9. Depending on your style, mood, energy level, etc., add as many lines of stitching as you’d like. I went with three on each side.

final strap

Congratulations, fellow crafter! You have yourself one fine-lookin’ strap. Use at your leisure.

March 9, 2008 at 7:48 pm 18 comments

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